Conservation International (CI) and its partners are helping the Liberian government to better protect the country’s species and ecosystems, in part by ensuring that violence does not return to the forests. In October 2006, collaborators reached a new milestone when Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf signed a forestry reform measure that aims to balance the needs of the country’s depleted forests with those of its human communities. It signifies a new era of governance and the rule of law,” says Alex Peal, director of Conservation International-Liberia. “There is a legal framework governing the protection, use, and conservation of this significant heritage that was blatantly abused for personal gains, fueled the war, and deprived a majority of the citizenry of their birth rights.”
BirdLife International has secured US $650,000 from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership for a new project in the Upper Guinea forests of West Africa. The three year project will capitalise upon IBA conservation work undertaken by the Ghana Wildlife Society and Conservation Society of Sierra Leone, and will also establish national IBA programmes in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Liberia.
Liberia has 10 National Forests which are to be managed for timber production and a National Park, Sapo. This gives some measure of protection to about 14% of the total area of the country and some 30% of closed forest. Other National Parks and Nature Reserves have been proposed but have not yet been implemented.
Hunting has reduced Liberia’s fauna significantly and although there are controls on hunting, in practice gun ownership is high and much of the population depend on bush meat as a source of protein. Hunting for birds depends on the prices of cartridges. Large bird species are rare in all accessible areas of the country, but some species such as large hornbills and storks have recovered locally during the war. This is true also for many smaller species of about pigeon size due to the high price of gun shot.
The major environmental issues can be summarised as tropical rain forest deforestation, soil erosion in the north, loss of biodiversity and pollution of coastal waters from oil residue and raw sewage.
Liberia is party to several international environmental conventions including Biodiversity, Climate Change - Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83 and Tropical Timber 94.